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Why the reluctance?

Why do New Zealand men have such a reluctance to share their struggles?

If you look at the mental health stats, although Kiwi women are more likely to report depression and anxiety, men are three times as likely to die by suicide as females in New Zealand.

What this highlights is that there's a large underreporting of depression among men. That Kiwi blokes don’t admit when we are truly struggling. That we’d rather kill ourselves than reach out to friends, family or health professionals.

According to a few studies I’ve read, if men do in fact reach out that they often wait for a year and a half to two years before seeking help for depression.

Once again I ask why the reluctance? Why are we so scared of showing vulnerability, of opening up to the people around us?

Sadly, the answer in most cases is stigma, societal expectations and our tendency to prioritise self-reliance. Essentially we don’t want to appear weak.

I think it’s time we, as Kiwi men, change that script on masculinity. That we come to the realisation that it’s more manly, and a show of strength, to share our struggles than to eat them down and think we’re somehow tougher by suffering in silence.

Through the work that Todd Astle, Ged Robinson and I have done in setting up our BetterMan charity, we’ve delved into this topic of positive masculinity more and more. I’m pleased to report that there are many amazing people that we’ve come across looking to turn the dial in this space.

Kudos to the likes of Jehan Casinader and Matt Chisholm who are reporting on and speaking around the country about the issue, Alex Ness, Teresa Pomeroy and MSD’s social action team who are enabling others, Mataio Taimalelagi Brown MNZM and Sarah Brown MNZM from She is not your rehab, Robert Dunne and the Movember team, Richie Hardcore (who is probably the one challenging masculine ideals the most), Scotty Stevenson through his series The Upside, and podcasters like Dom Harvey and Between Two Beers Podcast who are opening up vulnerable conversations.

So, this Men’s Mental Health Week I ask you to do the following two things:

1. Ask yourself, “Is there something that I’ve kept to myself for far too long?” and if the answer is yes, then reach out and talk to someone close to you about any struggles you might be going through.

2. When’s the last time you genuinely checked in on your mates? That you asked for an honest answer and truly listened to their response? I ask that you reach out to them now. What better time than Men’s Mental Health Week?

In summary, f*ck the reluctance, it’s time we talked.


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